television

Snip, snip? The symbolic clout of Sikh man nodding approval for (a) Trump or (b) Schumer

Snip, snip? The symbolic clout of Sikh man nodding approval for (a) Trump or (b) Schumer

Anyone who knows anything about America in the past half century or so knows that we live in a culture that is increasingly dominated by visual images and the emotions they produce.

Images were crucial as modern print journalism evolved. It goes without saying that images are crucial in visual storytelling in television, past and present. 

Today? While words matter in social media, nothing grabs people quite like that punchy, ironic, cute, infuriating or poignant image that seems to sum up (a) whatever is happening in the real world at the moment or (b) whatever we are consuming in order to be able to ignore whatever is happening in the real world at the moment.

Thus, a former GetReligionista sent the current team an email the other day -- with the simple headline, "Hmmmm" -- containing the item at the top of this post.

What's the point? The question has been asked many times: Why do so many people get confused and think that Sikhs are Muslims? Is there something compelling about the Sikh turban (the dastaar) that makes journalists think "foreign," "exotic," maybe "Arab" and, thus, "Muslim" or someone who would be accused of being a "Muslim terrorist"?

Ah, but the turban is VISUAL and it all but screams "diversity," "other world religions" and "multiculturalism."

At the moment, is the whole point -- in terms of journalism shorthand -- that a Sikh believer looks like the kind of man that the angry, fact-challenged, Islamophobic Donald Trump voter is supposed to want to (a) beat up and then (b) accuse of being a "Muslim" terrorist? 

Well, a few key facts are all wrong. But, hey, the point is to make a point. Right?

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Waltons? Little House? Have faith in ratings success of Dolly Parton's latest Christmas movie

Waltons? Little House? Have faith in ratings success of Dolly Parton's latest Christmas movie

My wife, Tamie, and I share different tastes in music and entertainment.

For instance, I love country music, much to the chagrin of the queen of my doublewide trailer.

I also enjoy sappy movies, no matter how predictable, which is why I DVR a lot of Hallmark Christmas films this time of year.

My wife cringes at the dialogue on certain made-for-TV entertainment, including Dolly Parton's latest holiday classic "Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love," starring Jennifer Nettles as young Dolly's mother and Ricky Schroder as her father. I, on the other hand, require a tissue to make it all the way through.

Sentimentality? If you ask me, 2016 could use some. And NBC's huge ratings for Parton's "Christmas of Many Colors" tell me I'm not alone (sorry, honey!).

("It's very good — and frightening," Tamie said when I asked her to read the above lead-in. It's a good thing we have a few things in common, such as three wonderful children and a daughter-in-law we adore.)

Yes, there's a faith angle — a big one — both in the Parton movie and the country legend behind it.

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The preaching of Zakir Naik: When journalists turn the term 'evangelist' into an insult

The preaching of Zakir Naik: When journalists turn the term 'evangelist' into an insult

Let's walk through this one slowly, since it's a bit complicated. The big question here: Is there such a thing as a Muslim evangelist?

The bottom line: The word "evangelist" has deep roots in Christian tradition -- period. If you dig deep enough into the early church you find the Greek word "euangelion," which means "good news" or the Gospel, and that evolved into the Latin "evangelium."

Click your mouse a few times and you can find the word "evangel," which means, "The Christian Gospel" or "any of the four Gospels of the New Testament." Once again, the Greek and Latin roots are clear. "Evangel" evolved into "evangelist." If you look that up you find a variety of definitions, the most generic of which will be something like, "One who promulgates or promotes something enthusiastically." The main choices will resemble:

* Protestant minister or layperson who serves as an itinerant or special preacher, especially a revivalist.
* A preacher of the Gospel.
* Any of the writers (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) of the four Gospels.
* A person who first brought the gospel to a city or region.

During the evangelical and Pentecostal scandals of the 1980s, centering on the work of TV preachers such as Jim "PTL" Bakker and Jimmy "I have sinned" Swaggart, this term was stretched into "televangelist" -- even though most members of that tribe were not doing evangelism.

This brings us to a recent story in The Los Angeles Times that starts like this:

Authorities are investigating a Mumbai-based televangelist whose radical sermons are believed to have influenced at least one of the men who killed hostages in a Bangladesh cafe this month.

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RIP Mother Angelica: Some media were more prepared for this big story than others

RIP Mother Angelica: Some media were more prepared for this big story than others

Mother Angelica probably appreciated the fact that she died yesterday – Easter Sunday – and it was a few savvy folks in the secular media who knew of her fame and quickly posted stories about her death.

Outside of Alabama, NBC News and the Washington Times were the quickest on the ball to note that a giant in the Catholic media world just died. The doughty nun has been bedridden the past 15 or so years but any religion reporter working in the last decades of the 20th century knew of Mother Angelica’s amazing story. 

Mother Angelica died about 5 p.m. CDT on Sunday. By the time EWTN posted news about her death about 90 minutes later, media on the East Coast were wrapping things up for the night. Which is why a quick story on deadline by my former colleague Victor Morton –- who has extensive contacts in the Catholic world -- at the Times was impressive.

Mother Angelica died on Easter Sunday.
The Poor Clare nun became the face of Catholic media during the Pope John Paul era by founding Eternal Word Television Network and being its most prominent on-air personality.
EWTN confirmed the death Sunday, almost 15 years after a stroke took the power of speech and the ability to appear on the air from its founder, whose formal religious name was Mother Mary Angelica of the Annunciation and was born Rita Rizzo. She was 92.

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Rolling Stone searches for theological cornerstone in X-Files and, alas, drops the ball

Rolling Stone searches for theological cornerstone in X-Files and, alas, drops the ball

I was never addicted to the X-Files back in its classic era, but I was almost always aware of what was going on in the series because of updates from my Milligan College students -- especially in my "Exegete the Culture" senior seminar on faith and mass media.

Religious issues kept showing up in the show's believer-doubter format, with plots built on a never-ending search for the supernatural. One semester, a bright youth-ministry major wrote a brilliant paper -- the curricula for a weekend retreat for high-schoolers -- based on three X-Files episodes that focused on prayer, healing and life after death. The show was asking lots of interesting questions, which had to be coming from somewhere.

So I wasn't surprised that the recent Rolling Stone profile of X-Files creator Chris Carter (linked, of course, to the six-episode Fox reboot) explored some religious themes. I was also -- alas -- not surprised when a key religion fact got mangled. More on that in a minute.

But, for starters, wouldn't you like to know more about the roots of the Amazon project mentioned in this section of the story?

Though Carter doesn't admit this, his return to Hollywood (not counting a second X-Files film he wrote in 2007) must have been disappointing for the man who ruled the medium a decade earlier. A series about the Salem witch trials that he created for Showtime never made it to air. Same with an Area 51 drama he worked on for AMC. And ditto for a conspiracy thriller, Unique,which he developed at Fox.

But the toughest hit was his 2014 Amazon pilot, The After, a Sartre-meets-Dante serial drama set in the intersection of Los Angeles and Hades.

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Dear Lexington editors: If Linus doesn't say you know what, then what is he allowed to say?

Dear Lexington editors: If Linus doesn't say you know what, then what is he allowed to say?

OK, close your eyes. You are watching television during the season before Christmas. To be specific, you are watching "A Charlie Brown Christmas."

So Charlie Brown -- I can't imagine calling him either "Charlie" or "Brown," under Associated Press style -- has purchased the sad little Christmas tree and all the other children are mocking him. Even Snoopy is laughing. Then they all exit, stage right.

The lovable loser shouts: "Isn't there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?"

At that point, Linus van Pelt steps forward and answers in the affirmative. Then he walks to the center of the stage and, alone in a spotlight, says ...

Says what? 

Millions and millions of Americans know what Linus says in his pivotal speech in the classic television special. The question, in a "Christmas wars" update from The Lexington Herald-Leader, is what does Linus say in the controversial production of "A Charlie Brown Christmas" that is being staged at W.R. Castle Elementary School in Johnson County, Kentucky? Here is the top of this hollow story:

When students perform the play “A Charlie Brown Christmas” at W.R. Castle Elementary School in Johnson County on Thursday, the scene in which the character Linus quotes from the Bible is set to be deleted.

Johnson County Schools Superintendent Thomas Salyer told the Herald-Leader Tuesday that Christmas programs across the district were being reviewed for possible modifications of religious references. That news had led people to protest outside school district offices for a second day. ...

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Powers that be at NBC-TV placed a big bet on the Bible, and sorta lost

Powers that be at NBC-TV placed a big bet on the Bible, and sorta lost

What’s the future for quality, religiously themed dramas on U.S. broadcast television? That story theme, which reporters could develop with help from entertainment industry analysts, emerges from the track record  of “A.D.: The Bible Continues.” This NBC miniseries about the birth of Christianity, drawn from  the biblical Book of Acts,  wrapped on June 21.

Broadcasters often relegate religious fare to the Christmas and Easter seasons and the rest of the year may depict devout characters in bit parts that are not always flattering to faith.  However, NBC placed a big bet on a reverential series that was adjudged “handsomely mounted” but “thuddingly earnest” by Variety, the showbiz bible. The first episode ran on Easter Sunday and the programs were then granted another consecutive 11 Sundays in prime time including the May ratings “sweeps.” That’s coveted TV real estate.

NBC’s  innovation made commercial sense, you’d think, given past box-office results and hoped-for viewership among millions upon millions of U.S. churchgoers. Moreover, star producers Mark Burnett and Roma Downey had scored an impressive surprise hit on cable TV with their similar 2013 miniseries “The Bible” on the History Channel (jointly owned by ABC-Disney and Hearst).  The first episode drew 13.1 million viewers, others consistently posted above 10 million, and the Easter Sunday conclusion had an audience of 11.7 million. It was the second most popular miniseries the channel has ever carried.

However, NBC’s 2015 outing was a different matter, which probably underscores the difference between cable and broadcast in this era of fragmentation and specialized niche audiences.

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